News from Around the State: Trials and Verdicts

The WDC regularly publishes notable trial verdict results in its Journal and on its website. If you have recently tried a civil case to verdict in Wisconsin, you are encouraged to submit a short summary of the case to Journal Editor Vincent Scipior at [email protected]. Please include the case caption, county and case number, a description of the facts and legal issues for trial, information about any pre-trial settlement offers and demands, and verdict outcome (liability and damages).


Jenna L. Huseboe, et al. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co.

Milwaukee County Case No. 22-CV-705

Trial Dates: September 25-26, 2023

Facts: This was a UIM claim. The plaintiff—a 29-year-old female—was involved in an intersection accident. She was hit on the front passenger side by a car that pulled out from a stop sign. Her most significant injury was an avulsion fracture of the left index finger metacarpal head (knuckle; dominant hand) with collateral ligament injury. Plaintiff had her hand on the horn when her airbag deployed. Other injuries included shin bruising, neck and back pain, and laceration to palm side of left hand requiring seven sutures. Plaintiff underwent ORIF surgery, occupational and physical therapy, and a second surgery a year later for hardware removal. Plaintiff claimed permanent hand injury affecting activities of daily living (i.e., resulting pain and limitations), in addition to resulting scars from original laceration and surgeries. Plaintiff’s doctor, Dr. Patrick Hettinger (Froedtert), provided a report and testimony that plaintiff’s injury was permanent, that she would continue to have pain, decreased range of motion, and arthritic changes, eventually needing joint replacement or fusion surgery. 

Plaintiff received $50,000 from the at fault driver’s liability carrier and sought additional UIM benefits from State Farm. Defense had a medical examination performed by Dr. Amin Afsari (The Orthopedic Institute of Wisconsin). Dr. Afsari confirmed injury, appropriateness of treatment and resulting decreased range of motion. Dr. Afsari did not find any resulting disability, or any arthritic changes, or any need for future treatment. 

Issues for Trial: Just prior to trial, plaintiff dismissed her claim for past or future medical expenses.

At Trial: Plaintiff asked the jury for $650,000 to $800,000 for her past and future pain, suffering, disability, and disfigurement, and left the value of her husband’s loss of consortium claim to the jury’s discretion. The defense argued for up to $20,000 for past damages and $7,500 for future damages, with no comment on the loss of consortium claim. The jury awarded plaintiff $20,000 for past damages, $12,500 for future damages, and $0 for loss of consortium.

Plaintiff’s Final Pre-Trial Demand: $183,500

Defendant’s Final Pre-Trial Offer: $109,000

Verdict: $32,500

For more information, contact Gino M. Alia at [email protected].


Retained Foreign Object Case

Facts: Plaintiff was admitted to a hospital for treatment for an infection in his neck. Prior to undergoing a planned surgical procedure, the plaintiff lost his airway. The physician performed an emergency tracheotomy commonly referred to as a “slash tracheotomy.” The physician was able to restore the patient’s airway, but the surgical team encountered extensive bleeding, in part, because the patient was on multiple blood thinners. The surgical team was ultimately able to control the bleeding by packing the wound. Several months later, it was discovered that a sponge remained in the wound. The patient then underwent a surgical procedure to remove the sponge.

Issues for Trial: A claim was brought against both the hospital and the doctor alleging that the hospital’s nurses and doctor were negligent for failing to remove the sponge.

At Trial: After four days of trial, the jury returned a defense verdict finding that neither the hospital nor doctor was negligent.

For more information, contact Michael Johnson at [email protected] or Randy Guse at [email protected].


Gail Bodin v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., et al.

Ashland County Case Number 19-CV-99

Trial Dates: June 13-15, 2023 

Facts: This was an auto accident case. Plaintiff was a front seat passenger in a 2013 Chevy Tahoe being operated by William Blake on westbound Highway 2 in Saginaw, Minnesota. When the highway went from one lane in each direction separated by a double yellow line to two lanes in each direction separated by a median, Mr. Blake struck the median and a divided highway sign. Mr. Blake’s vehicle sustained $15,923.90 in damage to the driver’s side from striking the divided highway sign. The Tahoe’s side curtain airbags deployed. In addition to muscle sprains/strains, Ms. Bodin claimed to have suffered a rotator cuff tear for which she eventually had surgery.

Issues for Trial: Mr. Blake passed away about a month before the trial. 

At Trial: Plaintiff claimed$72,105.41 in past medical specials and $40,000 in lost earnings.She called the following experts to testify at trial: Dr. Cummins (orthopedic surgeon), William Smith, DC (chiropractor), and a physical therapist that performed a functional capacity evaluation. Defendants called Dr. Thomas Viehe and Dr. Ronald Fijalkowski as their witnesses. Plaintiff’s counsel asked for $508,000 in closing. 

The jury awarded $7,500 for past medical expenses, $13,150 in past pain and suffering, and $0 for future medical expenses, past earnings, future earnings, and future pain and suffering.

Plaintiff’s Final Pre-Trial Demand: $185,000

Defendant’s Final Pre-Trial Offer: $78,000

Verdict: $20,650 

For more information, contact Joseph Ryan at [email protected].


Erik D. Johnson v. Germantown Mut. Ins. Co., et al.

Price County Case Number 21-CV-44

Trial Dates: June 13-14, 2023 

Insurers and defense counsel are occasionally confronted with the difficult situation of an insured being sued by a friend or family member. In such cases, the insured may have a strong incentive to testify favorably to the plaintiff and not the insurer. Often insurers and defense counsel are reluctant to take such cases to trial. In just such a case, a Price County jury returned a complete defense verdict in favor of the insurer in a slip-and-fall case with bad damages.

Facts: The plaintiff was a 45-year-old “beloved special education teacher” in a small town who slipped and fell in the driveway of his mother’s residence. He sustained a compound and comminuted fracture of both the tibia and fibula requiring multiple surgeries, significant disability, and the likelihood of future surgeries. Plaintiff brought suit against his mother’s insurer (he did not sue his mother).

Plaintiff’s mother was an elderly woman who lived independently and insisted on taking care of all of the outside maintenance including ice and snow removal. She cooperated with the insurer and defense counsel but insisted that her son’s fall was all her fault because she failed to salt the driveway on the evening in question. She accepted full responsibility for the fall both at her deposition and on the witness stand at trial. In short, she claimed that she knew the weather had deteriorated throughout the course of the evening and simply forgot to salt the driveway even though she knew her son would be coming over later that evening to pick up his dog. She claimed that she had a bucket of ice melt near the front door at all times and it simply slipped her mind that evening to apply the ice melt despite knowing of the deteriorating weather conditions.

Issues for Trial: Liability and damages were at issue.

At Trial: The plaintiff testified that he was picking up his dog from his mother’s house when he slipped and fell on the driveway. The condition of the driveway was glare ice according to the report of the emergency medical technicians shortly after the fall. Interestingly, the plaintiff himself testified that he had no trouble with his footing until the fall itself. The weather was approximately freezing temperatures with freezing drizzle or mist.

Alcohol was an issue. The plaintiff had been at a Super Bowl party and admitted consuming alcohol throughout the evening. The plaintiff took great pains to stretch out the number of hours of his drinking and emphasized how much he had to eat throughout the night. A blood test two hours after the fall came back with a BAC of .04. The defense consulted (but did not use) a toxicologist who indicated that the plaintiff was probably a .07 or .08 at the time of the fall. The defense decided to rely upon the medical records in which the plaintiff acknowledged drinking a substantial quantity throughout the day and let the jury conclude for itself how the alcohol consumption affected his contributory negligence. The plaintiff tried to keep all alcohol use out of evidence on motions in limine but was not successful in doing so. 

The plaintiff insisted that he was not under the influence when the fall occurred. Likewise, his mother of course verified that her son was not under the influence at the time of the fall. They claimed the medical bills were well into six figures with a future amount likely. He walked with a significant limp and credibly claimed some significant disability. The plaintiff called as witnesses the insured (adversely?), the plaintiff, the orthopedic surgeon, and the chiropractor (who testified the limp caused a spinal imbalance needing future treatment). 

The defense called no witnesses and offered no substantive exhibits. The jury deliberated for approximately 2.5 hours. The jury returned a verdict finding no negligence on the insured and 100% negligence on the plaintiff. The jury awarded the past medical bills and a portion of the future medical bills. They did not award any dollars for pain and suffering.

Verdict: $0

For more information, contact Erik J. Pless at [email protected].